Final impeachment votes set for Friday
Clinton acquittal expected, but by what margin?
February 11, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 11) -- The Senate impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton will wrap up Friday, with final votes on the charges against the president set for sometime after 11 a.m. EST. Senators had hoped to vote late Thursday, but the slow pace of the third day of deliberations made that impossible.
With Clinton's acquittal on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges virtually assured, and even a formal censure of the president unlikely, the biggest remaining question is whether either article of impeachment will get a majority vote. A two-thirds vote would be needed to remove Clinton.
Friday's closed-door session begins at 9 a.m. EST, with statements by the remaining senators who have not spoken.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he will be among the final speakers Friday. Among the others will be Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), one of the Senate's most respected authorities on Senate tradition and the Constitution. Byrd also is one of the few Democrats who has publicly agonized over his vote.
With the two-thirds supermajority required for Clinton's conviction and removal from office, anything less than 67 votes is legally meaningless. But the House prosecutors say 51 "guilty" votes on at least one of the articles of impeachment would give them a symbolic victory.
"You know there's a little moral victory there, a little victory that if we can get over 50 on at least one of these charges we've at least shown the nation that a majority of the Senate are concerned about this issue of obstruction of justice," said Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tennessee), one of the House managers.
The obstruction of justice charge is considered the only one that might not lose the majority of senators and the only one that has any chance of keeping any more Republicans from defecting and joining Democrats in rejecting the entire prosecution case.
Four Republicans have already announced they will not vote to convict on either article of impeachment. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine, is the latest defector, joining Sens. James Jeffords of Vermont, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John Chafee of Rhode Island. All four stress that their decision is not vindication for Clinton.
Sources told CNN that Sen. Susan Collins, the other half of Maine's all-GOP Senate contingent, announced in the closed deliberations that she also plans to vote for full acquittal.
One pivotal GOP moderate, Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, announced, though, that he would vote to convict Clinton of both offenses, because to find him not guilty, "I had to suspend my common sense too much, too often."
The other senators who announced their positions Thursday, not surprisingly, fell strictly along party lines, with Republicans saying they would vote guilty and Democrats saying they would not.
In an interview with CNN's Frank Sesno, Jeffords said he did not think either impeachment count against Clinton would get a simple majority in the 100-member Senate.
Jeffords said he would vote against both articles and believed as many as 12 Republican moderates would join him.
At the beginning of Thursday's session, 37 senators were still left to speak, and only eight completed their statements during the morning session. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the pace seemed to accelerate later, with more and more members submitting their statements into the written record without speaking.
Lott, who has urged his Senate colleagues to be terse, said he did not want to rush the deliberations. "We want to give notice to the media and the American public" before the vote, Lott said.
Lawmakers are not standing before their colleagues to change any votes. They are doing it all to explain why to each other, to the public, and to themselves why they decided to vote the way they will Friday.
Senators began deliberating in private Tuesday after a proposal to open the proceedings to the public failed on a 59-41 vote. Changing the impeachment trial's rules would have required a two-thirds margin, or 67 votes.
Wednesday's closed-door session spanned eight hours with several breaks along the way. More than 30 senators spoke, with most taking the maximum 15 minutes allotted. Chief Justice William Rehnquist had to pound his gavel to remind some their time had expired.
The first day of deliberations on Tuesday covered a period of slightly more than four hours. The final votes to acquit or convict will be taken in open session.
It's the first time in American history the Senate has tried an elected president for high crimes and misdemeanors. Andrew Johnson, who ascended to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln's assassination, was tried and acquitted in the last presidential impeachment trial 131 years ago.
A two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, is required to convict and remove the president.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) said Thursday that after the vote on the articles of impeachment against Clinton Friday, he and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) plan to introduce a censure motion, even though its prospect for passage are dim.
Lieberman said the senators will request a "suspension of the rules", which requires a two-thirds majority for passage, and that is how they would bring the censure motion to the floor.
Knowing it is unlikely they can get a two-thirds vote, Lieberman said he would be "disappointed and frustrated that a parliamentary manuever is being used to block the will of the majority of the Senate."
Lieberman said if and when that procedure fails, the senators will look to create a "declaration of censure" that could be entered into the Congressional Record but not voted on, or be sent to the president, or both. Any senator would be able to sign on to the "declaration of censure."
The White House fully expects acquittal at the end of the trial, but is not commenting on a censure resolution. White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said Wednesday the president would be open to such a resolution, but it is up to the Senate to decide what to do about censure.
According to sources, the president plans to address the public after the votes on the articles of impeachment. He is expected at that time to apologize to the American people for what the country has gone through. The White House has said there will be no celebration following the vote.
CNN's Jonathan Karl, Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley contributed to this report.
Thursday, February 11, 1999
Clinton, Lott and the revenge factor
Sen. Hatch wants to know source of anti-Starr leaks
Excerpts of senators' public comments on impeachment
Reno avoids comment on reports of Starr probe
House prosecutors blame public opinion
More GOP leaders ask Bush to run
Welfare recipients may help 2000 census
Longtime Boy Scout quits over Clinton award